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Parliamentary Debates

During the First Session of the Thirteenth ParliaMent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, appointed to meet at Westminster, loth Nove?nber, 1837? in the First Year of the Reign of Her Majesty


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the noble Duke (Wellington) on the one hand, and by the noble Marquess (Camden) on the other hand, that the Heads of Houses and other leading members of the Universities were applying themselves to this subject, and that they meant to propose a very considerable reform. In consequence of that statement, he had withdrawn his motion; and he was now anxious lo know what progress had been made in the workof reformation? Whatproceedings had taken place by the direction of the individuals alluded to by the noble Duke and the noble Marquess? So far as he understood, nothing had been done except the abolition of the oath heretofore administered on matriculation—an alteration in the system which he undoubtedly considered to be a very great improvement. That, so far as he was informed, was the only substantial alteration that had been made at Cambridge, and he should feel obliged to the noble Marquess to state whether that was, or was not, the fact? Steps, it was said, had been taken at Trinity College, Cambridge, to effect a °TMral revision of the statutes, and he

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should be glad to know what progress had been made in that revision. Such was the statement made, and he believed (but the noble Marquess could set him right if he were wrong) that nothing had since been done since August last, beyond the appointment of a committee to revise the statutes. Supposing that committee to be sitting, its progress, if lie were correct in his information, was exceedingly slow. Now, he should be glad to hear, if Trinity College had taken the question up, why it had not moved with a little more rapidity? Two other colleges (he spoke, be it observed, from the information of others) were said also to have applied themselves to this question. In Queen's College, he had heard, some degree of revision had taken place. With respect to Christ's College, he understood, that some of the leading members had expressed a wish that a certain degree of reformation should be effected in its statutes; but an influential individual interfered, and it was held, that no alteration could be effected without legislative assistance, and so the matter ended. In Trinity College, since last year, they appeared to have done nothing at all in this business, and the same observation applied to Christ's College. Now, with respect to the University of Oxford, he did not know, that anything effectual had been done in any of the colleges in the way of revising the statutes. He apprehended, that nothing had been done. He had heard some time ago a rumour that one of the colleges had made an effort at reformation, but it was not successful. The colleges, he believed, had done nothing individually; and perhaps it might justly be said, that the University itself had done little more than make a show. He should briefly advert to what he understood was the amount of alteration which had actually been made by the University of Oxford in its statutes since last year. In the first place, he begged leave to draw the attention of their Lordships to the statement which, in the last Session, the noble Duke had made with reference to this subject. The noble Duke then said, "I am one of those who are of opinion that some amelioration ought to take place in the statutes; and soon after I was placed in the situation of Chancellor I recommended that something of that kind should be done; and I believe the subject has been under consideration from that time till now, with a view

to carrying those ameliorations into effect." Now, what any individual college had done he knew not, and what the University had done might be very shortly described. For several years past there had been in the University of Oxford some conversation as to the revision of the statutes; and at the visitation in November last, some alterations were made, chiefly in the first three chapters of the statutes. These alterations amounted to very little. Lecturers were no longer prohibited from lecturing in Lent, and the reading of prayers by the Chancellor on certain occasions had been dispensed with. The old oath taken by the young men on entering college had been abolished, an alteration of which he highly approved. The third chapter, which related to the duties of tutors, had been slightly altered. It was admitted, that a great alteration here was not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. It was hoped, that some arrangement would be made by that admirable body of men, so as to divide their duties more than had hitherto been the case. Here an opportunity was given for making an extensive and useful alteration, but nothing was done except the abolition of certain punishments. After the first, second, and third chapters had been dealt with, one would naturally suppose, that those who were concerned in the work would have proceeded with the fourth chapter, which was a very important one. They had not, however, taken that very plain and obvious course. After having revised the first, second, and third chapters, they took a very long stretch, and proceeded to the fifteenth chapter, which referred to the regulation of the manners and conduct of the young men in the University. Here some alterations were made in the provisions which related to the dressing of the hair, the playing at football, and the keeping of a horse or servant; but the most remarkable part of this chapter, as altered, was that which referred to libel, by which any young man, accused of having promulgated a libel against any person, or of having such a production in his possession, might be cited before the Vice-Chancellor, called on to produce a copy of the libel, compelled to account for his possession of the paper, and if he could not give a satisfactory statement as to his connexion with it, he might, at the will of the Vice-Chancellor, be imprisoned or banished from the University, over and above making satisfaction to the individual said to be aggrieved. This provision, he contended, was new to a certain extent. Formerly this part of the statute contained two sections relative to libel—the one as to written libel, the other as to contumacious words spoken. These two sections had now been united, and severity of punishment was inflicted where it did not before apply. A man was liable to punishment if he did not produce a copy of the alleged libel, and he was obnoxious to punishment if he did.

The Duke of Wellington said, that the noble Earl had commenced what he had stated to their Lordships by adverting to what had passed in that House upon this subject on a former occasion. The noble Earl, however, did not quote accurately what had there passed, and he must therefore remind their Lordships what did pass, because it was essentia], that their Lordships should be acquainted with what then took place, as it rather threw a light on the questions put by the noble Earl. The noble Earl in the course of the last Session of Parliament had proposed to their Lordships a bill for the purpose of creating a commission ofinquiryintothestatutesof the colleges of the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In the course of the discussion which took place on that bill, which was ultimately rejected by their Lordships, a right rev. Prelate who had distinguished himself as the head of a college at Oxford, proposed, that inquiry should take place into the statutes. Their Lordships, however, not only rejected the bill of the noble Earl, but also the right rev. Prelate's proposition for an inquiry. On that occasion it appeared to their Lordships that it would be desirable that the statutes of the Universities, as well as of the several colleges of which they were composed, should be revised and reconsidered, with a view to see what alterations could be made. The noble Earl, however, after the rejection of this bill, had thought proper to bring forward his measure in another shape, and, instead of a bill creating a commission, proposed the appointment of a committee to inquire into the various statutes of the Universities. Previous to the noble Earl's motion for that committee, he had had some conversation with the Heads of the University of Oxford, and he had been assured that there existed a desire to review those statutes, and that the work was ac

tuallyi n progress. He thought, that this was a correct outline of what had passed, and the noble Earl had now come forward, as he said, to inquire what progress had been made. Now, the noble Earl had not only asked, but had answered his own question. He had, however, called for details as to the progress which had been made, and had applied to his noble Friend (Lord Camden) and himself, to give him an answer, which the noble Earl probably expected to correspond precisely with the information which he had received. The noble Earl had not only answered his own question, but had been pleased to comment on what had been done at the Universities. It appeared, according to the noble Earl's showing, that the Universities had done something, and he could tell the noble Earl that more had been done than he had mentioned. What had been done, however, was not satisfactory to the noble Earl, who had been pleased to comment in very strong terms upon this commencement, for it was only a commencement, of reform, and, as if the noble Earl had not commented strongly or severely .enough upon what had been done, he had been prompted by one of her Majesty's Ministers, the noble Baron the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Now, he thought, that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had a right to look for protection against such comments as the noble Earl had made on those alterations which had already been carried into effect by the University of Oxford, and that, at all events, they had a right to expect, that the noble Earl would not be prompted and encouraged by her Majesty's Ministers in making these comments. Though the noble Earl had answered his own question' he could, however, assert, that the noble Earl had not adverted to all that had been done. The noble Earl had referred only to what had actually passed, forgetting that though some laws had not passed, they had been considered by the board of heads of houses and by the several colleges, and he thought he might safely say that the University of Oxford had not been idle in the prosecution of these objects. He protested against that House entering into a consideration of these bits of statutes on the present occasion, and he would give no answer to the noble Earl's remarks upon them. He called upon their Lordships to allow the University of Oxford to proceed with the revision of their statutes, with a view to make such alterations as appeared to the authorities of the University proper tocarry into effect. After the work had been completed, if it did not appear to their Lordships to have been executed in a satisfactory manner they could express such an opinion and adopt such a course as might seem most proper to their Lordships, but it was not fitting for any Members of that House, and particularly by a vote, to interfere with measures which the House of Convocation had under consideration. With respect to thecolleges.hehad received accounts from several of them that I hey were reviewing their statutes. Several of the colleges were in communication with their respective visitors, and others were in communication with the fellows of the college with whom they must communicate in order to make effectual reforms in their statutes. They were going on as well as they could at the present moment, and he entreated their Lordships to let thern work out those reforms as they thought fit, and if they were not executed in accordance with their Lordships' wishes, it would then be time for that House to take such steps as might seem necessary.

The Marquess Camden was understood to say, that it could not be completed in a short time, to make alterations in statutes, in cases where it was necessary to go back so many years, and where so many legal questions must necessarily arise. He was, however, quite sure that in the University of Cambridge a strong inclination existed to make such alterations as time and circumstances had rendered necessary.

The Bishop of London would like to trouble their Lordships with a few words, as in consequence of the confusion which had prevailed, he had not enjoyed the privilege of hearing what had fallen from the noble Marquess. The noble Earl had stated, that one of the fellows of Christ's College had prevented any reformation being made in the statutes ; but the fact was, that the parties who dissented were four fellows out of thirteen, and of these four, three had concurred in an appeal to the visitor; and, therefore, a sort of compromise had been entered into between the majority and minority. He thought it but right, however, to the parties who were charged with resisting improvement, so called, that he should tell their Lordships what were the alterations proposed. One of the proposals made was, to throw open all the

fellowships to laymen, and to require that no person holding a fellowship should be obliged to take orders till he arrived at the age of thirty-one; whereas, it was evidently the intention of the founders of that society to make it an institution for persons designing to enter the Church. Another proposition was, to discontinue divine service during week days, and he was sure their Lordships would not say that a gentleman was the enemy of all improvement because, considering the objects for which the college was founded, he resisted that proposition.

Lord Holland begged to assure the House that he did not mean to comment on, much less censure, proceedings of which he knew nothing. He had heard what had fallen from his noble Friend, and it seemed to him rather unusual that a party should not only be judge and jury, but should also carry his own sentence into execution. Having been an humble member of that University for seven years, and remembering well the history of the expulsion of Locke and of the execution of Algernon Sydney upon proceedings exactly like the present, he could not avoid expressing his surprise that his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Radnor) should have confined his case to a charge of the heads of the University, under their statutes forming judge and jury, and that he should have omitted to add, that they had actually taken upon themselves the execution of the law. He had, perhaps, been irregular when he interrupted his noble Friend, but he had felt anxious to put this point before their Lordships.

Lord Brougham remarked, that he thought it quite right for the noble Baron to have reminded the House of an act which, by the law of Parliament, had been declared murder. The University of Oxford had hanged a man for an unpublished libel under a statute which, though exploded by the law of the land, had taken refuge in the University of Oxford. It was true the man had composed a libel, which was found in his possession. Now, by the law of the land, he could not be tried until he had published it, publication being the offence, but by the University statute he had been tried for composing, and not for a publication, inasmuch as it did not appear that he had shown it to a single individual. It was true there was an old dictum to the contrary, and he well remembered that Mr. Justice Holroyd, for whose opinion he entertained the highest respect, expressed some doubts as to whether publication was necessary to constitute the offence. But what he wished to know from the noble Marquess opposite (Camden) was, whether this was now also the law of Cambridge? He did not go along with the noble Duke opposite in thinking that Oxford had power to do exactly as she liked, for she had not power, under her statutes, to amend them and make them conformable to the laws of the land. To enable her to do this, and to give her aiding and ancillary laws, was the object of his noble Friend (the Earl of Radnor). The right rev. Prelate said, it was wished to throw open certain fellowships, but it was impossible, for so long as subjects could be found to fill them, even the Court of Chancery had not the power to throw them open. His noble Friend wished to invest them with those powers.

The Duke of Wellington reminded the noble and learned Lord of that which both he and the noble Earl opposite (Radnor) appeared to forget, that by no statute could the University make any statute contrary to the law of the land. This conversation showed the inconvenience of discussing a great matter by little bits of some statutes and on mere corners of subjects not fairly brought before the House, or properly brought under consideration. He was sure the principle he had stated was correct—namely, that the University had no power to make statutes contrary to the law of the land.

Lord Brougham quite agreed with the noble Duke, but the University had power to pass statutes for discipline. There were many of the statutes passed both by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge which were totally repugnant to the law of the land, but still they had reference to the discipline in both Universities. They might hold it necessary to prevent even the composition of libels, but still that was clearly with a view to discipline. Again, the discipline with regard to debts in both Universities wholly differed from the law of the land.

The Bishop of Glocester had never heard of such a law, as that which had been mentioned in the University of Cambridge. He must be allowed to add, that he had heard it stated, with great surprise, that the University still laboured

under the discredit and disgrace of having expelled that illustrious scholar, Locke, on some similar charge of libel. He had thought, that matter had been long ago refuted. The noble Baron who had mentioned it, would find that the University of Oxford had nothing whatever to do with the expulsion of Mr. Locke. It was true, that distinguished man had been deprived of his tutorship at Christchurch, but by whom? Why, by the power of the Crown, expressed by the then Secretary of State, the Earl of Sunderland. There was still extant a curious correspondence between the Earl of Sunderland and Bishop Fell, then Dean of Christchurch; and, from that correspondence, it distinctly appeared, that by the authority of the Crown, Mr. Locke had been deprived of his tutorship. Subject dropped.

Pluralities.] The Archbishop of Canterbury moved the Order of the Day for the committal of the Benefices Plurality Bill. He said, he should not detain their Lordships, for the number of amendments and corrections was so great, that they could hardly be discussed with any advantage till the bill had been reprinted. He should, therefore, wish to go into Committee, put in his amendments— any other noble Lord might move for leave to do so—and that the bill then be printed.

Their Lordships went into Committee.

The Bishop of Rochester objected to the third clause, as bearing rather hard on the clergy without any corresponding advantage, and moved that it be struck out.

The Bishop of Glocester said, this was a bill for limiting pluralities, and encouraging residence, and therefore promoting the more efficient discharge of their spiritual duties; but this clause would tend to neither one nor the other. It was not to prevent the holding of cathedral preferment, but that it should not exceed a certain sum; if the cathedral benefice or preferment amounted to 1,000/., the holder must not take any preferment above 5001. He could not think what reason there was for such a proposition, and believed, that those who introduced the bill into the other House could hardly have taken the whole of the matters connected with this subject into consideration.

Clause struck out. A number of amendments having been introduced, the

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